ISM Services Inches Up in November

The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) has now released the November Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI). The headline Composite Index is at 56.5 percent and is up 2.1 from 54.4 last month. Today's number came in above the forecast of 53.3 percent.

Here is the report summary:

(Tempe, Arizona) — Economic activity in the services sector grew in November for the 30th month in a row — with the Services PMI® registering 56.5 percent — say the nation's purchasing and supply executives in the latest Services ISM® Report On Business®.

The report was issued today by Anthony Nieves, CPSM, C.P.M., A.P.P., CFPM, Chair of the Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) Services Business Survey Committee: “In November, the Services PMI® registered 56.5 percent, 2.1 percentage points higher than October’s reading of 54.4 percent. The Business Activity Index registered 64.7 percent, a substantial increase of 9 percentage points compared to the reading of 55.7 percent in October. The New Orders Index figure of 56 percent is 0.5 percentage point lower than the October reading of 56.5 percent.

“The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 53.8 percent, 2.4 percentage points lower than the 56.2 percent reported in October. (Supplier Deliveries is the only ISM® Report On Business® index that is inversed; a reading of above 50 percent indicates slower deliveries, which is typical as the economy improves and customer demand increases.)

“The Prices Index was down 0.7 percentage point in November, to 70 percent. Services businesses still continue to struggle to replenish their stocks, as the Inventories Index contracted for the sixth consecutive month; the reading of 47.9 percent is up 0.7 percentage point from October’s figure of 47.2 percent. The Inventory Sentiment Index (44.2 percent, down 2.2 percentage points from October’s reading of 46.4 percent) contracted for the fourth month in a row.

“According to the Services PMI®, 13 industries reported growth. The composite index indicated growth for the 30th consecutive month after a two-month contraction in April and May 2020. Growth continues at a faster rate for the services sector, which has expanded for all but two of the last 154 months. The sector had an uptick in growth after pulling back in the previous two months. The rate of growth increased in November due to increases in business activity and employment.”

Nieves continues, “Supplier deliveries continued to slow, albeit at a slower rate in November. Based on comments from Business Survey Committee respondents, increased capacity and shorter lead times have resulted in a continued improvement in supply chain and logistics performance. A new fiscal period and the holiday season have contributed to stronger business activity and increased employment.” [Source]

Unlike its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, there is relatively little history for ISM's Non-Manufacturing data, especially for the headline Composite Index, which dates from 2008. The chart below shows the Non-Manufacturing Composite.

The more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 64.7 percent is up 9.0 from a seasonally adjusted 55.7 the previous month.

ISM Services

For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator, hence the addition of a six-month moving average to help us visualize the short-term trends.

Theoretically, this indicator should become more useful as the time frame of its coverage expands. Manufacturing may be a more sensitive barometer than Non-Manufacturing activity, but we are increasingly a services-oriented economy, which explains our intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing the trend in the underlying components.

Here is a link to our coverage of the latest ISM Manufacturing report.

We will publish our next ISM Non-Manufacturing report on January 6.

Read more updates by Jill Mislinski